Bulls

NBA MVP takes down the Bucks at the buzzer

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NBA MVP takes down the Bucks at the buzzer

From Comcast SportsNet
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Derrick Rose faked like he was going to drive to the basket again, creating just enough of a cushion on defender Brandon Jennings. Then he slid to his left in a split second, drilling a winning shot at the buzzer. The reigning league MVP sure knows how to thrill a stadium filled with Bulls fans -- even when he isn't playing at home. Rose's off-balance shot just inside the 3-point line capped a 30-point night that powered the Chicago Bulls to a 106-104 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. "It was like a kid, all the things that you dream about," Rose said. "It felt good. You're on the road, going against a team that's giving you their all and you hit a nice shot like that." Rose was mobbed by his teammates near halfcourt as a predominantly pro-Bulls crowd roared in approval, bursting out in chants of "M-V-P!" Joakim Noah added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who have won eight straight. "It was like a movie," Noah said. "Hit the shot, no time left on the clock, you hear the horn, the ball goes through the net. It must be an unbelievable feeling to hit a shot like that." Jennings noted that Rose wasn't having a particularly good night shooting from outside, so the Bucks were expecting him to drive. "I tried to make him take as difficult a shot as he could," Jennings said. "I was playing him to go to the basket, of course. He hit a step-back jump shot with a hand in his face. Hey, man, you go ahead and take that one." Bucks coach Scott Skiles said Rose made an incredibly tough shot look easy. "What a luxury to have, you don't even need to run a play," Skiles said. "You can just bring it in, throw it to a guy and he can get whatever shot he wants." Ersan Ilyasova had a career-high 32 points and Drew Gooden added a season-high 27 for the Bucks, who were coming off a home win over Philadelphia on Monday. The Bulls held Jennings to 11 points on 4 for 18 shooting. Jennings had scored 27-plus points in his previous three games coming into Wednesday. With the Bulls often double-teaming Jennings on defense, especially early, Gooden was left open for several outside shots -- and he cashed in, scoring 16 first-half points to keep the Bucks in the game. "I mean, it was a little difficult," Jennings said. "But like I said, Drew was hitting shots, Ersan was playing big for us." Once again, the Bradley Center was taken over by Bulls fans -- although Chicago's home-away-from-home-court advantage wasn't quite as pronounced as it was in the Bulls' Feb. 4 victory at Milwaukee, a Saturday night game that drew a huge crowd comprised mostly of Bulls fans. Still, the Bucks received a jarring greeting when they took the floor before Wednesday's game -- mostly boos -- and the crowd was decidedly pro-Bulls most of the game. When Milwaukee's Mike Dunleavy Jr. missed badly in the second quarter, he was subjected to "Airball!" chants. It left the Bucks in the odd position of having to talk about tuning out the crowd at home. "It hurts a lot that we lost this one, just the fact that we played so hard for 48 minutes," Jennings said. "Guys were down there battling. We didn't let the crowd get to us at all." The crowd apparently did get his attention before the game. "I told the guys before the game, we're just going to tune that out and play basketball," Jennings said. The Bulls have won all four meetings with the Bucks this season. With the Bulls up by two, Rose lost the ball out of bounds and officials initially ruled it went off a Bucks player. After a replay review, the call was reversed and the ball went to the Bucks with 55.2 seconds left. Milwaukee's Beno Udrih then drove for a layup, tying the game with 42.9 seconds left. Rose drove on Jennings, then tried to hit a turnaround jumper -- and drew a foul on Jennings and hit both shots for a 104-102 lead with 32.5 left. Ilyasova scored inside, tying the game again with 24 seconds left and setting the stage for Rose's last-second shot. "It was a great play by him," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He took the clock down, he didn't leave any time because it was one of those games where whoever had the ball, you thought they were going to score next." Notes: The Bulls were without guards Richard Hamilton and C.J. Watson because of injuries. Hamilton has a right shoulder injury, while Watson has a left ankle sprain. ... The Bucks were without defensive ace Luc Richard Mbah a Moute because of a right knee injury, and Udrih played despite left knee soreness. Stephen Jackson continues to sit out with hamstring soreness, and no timeline has been established for his return.

Zach LaVine's conditioning at '70 percent' but still on schedule

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USA TODAY

Zach LaVine's conditioning at '70 percent' but still on schedule

Everybody saw the play, that awkward instance where Zach LaVine looked ready for his second dunk of the season but was fouled from behind by Atlanta’s Taurean Prince.

It looked as if LaVine was ready for liftoff but one of his jets misfired, sparking at least the thought of his recovery from his ACL injury being a bit off—but he laughed at the thought.

“I don’t know why everybody keeps talking about it,” LaVine said Sunday at New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center, where the Bulls held practice. “The dude stepped on the back of my foot, so I couldn’t get off the ground. Everybody’s wondering if I’m okay, yeah. I just missed a fouled layup.”

The adrenaline from his first two games have worn off a bit, and he missed his first four shots from the field Saturday before hitting a couple in the start of the third quarter in the Bulls’ 113-97 win over the Hawks.

He looked winded a few times during his stint and admitted his conditioning isn’t where it should be—as expected given he’s missed 11 months of real basketball. He said his conditioning is at about “70 percent”, and you can certainly see it in his jump shot not being as fluid as it was last season in Minnesota.

“It was feeling good in practice but in games it’s seventy,” LaVine said. “Playing defense, getting back, running the break, just getting used to it.”

Add to it, the Bulls cover the most halfcourt ground of any team in the NBA with their set offense and Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has long said he’s not slowing down his offense while LaVine is in.

The shooting guard will have to catch up to the pace, and it’ll probably be better for him in the long run.

“I think it’s just ‘okay’ and rightfully so,” said Hoiberg about LaVine’s conditioning. “It’s impossible to simulate game action in practices when you’re doing individual workouts. Every time he plays that conditioning will ramp up. As he plays, it’ll get better and better. And he’s such a good and natural athlete, it’ll come back quickly.”

Hoiberg isn’t concerned about the variances in LaVine’s performances. He came out the gate with such force and adrenaline in his debut against Detroit and two days later against Miami, but it’s tailed off against Golden State and then Atlanta.

“I think Zach’s doing great,” Hoiberg said. “You look around the league where players have come back from significant injuries, he’s gonna be up and down. His first two games he’s been unbelievable. A couple games he hasn’t shot the ball great. He played unselfish basketball last night.”

LaVine’s minutes has been extended to 24 from 20, and he’ll still practice in the off-days as the Bulls want to keep his rehab on schedule as opposed to having him play heavy minutes initially.

He’ll be re-evaluated after Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia and could see his minutes rise before the Bulls host the Lakers Friday at the United Center.

“I should just get used to it,” LaVine said. “Just getting used to the swing of things. It takes a second for your body to get adjusted to it.”

Three Things to Watch: Bulls visit Pelicans

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls visit Pelicans

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Bulls take on the New Orleans Pelicans tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Pregame Live.

1. Anthony Davis

The five-time All-Star just continues to improve. While he's not averaging career-highs in any major category, no one's going to scoff at his 26.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.1 blocks in 36 minutes per game. He's shooting nearly 56 percent from the field and is on pace for a career-best in 3-pointers made, which is a pretty impressive statistic. Lauri Markkanen will have his hands full, and it may be in the Bulls' best interest to get Nikola Mirotic some early minutes to try and get physical with Davis. There's no real way to slow him down.

2. DeMarcus Cousins

And if the Bulls should so happen to get lucky and slow down Davis, there's another All-Star starter waiting alongside him. Boogie Cousins has been every bit as good as Davis this season, averaging 25.3 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 36 minutes. He's certainly not as efficient as Davis (47 percent from the field, 5.0 turnovers) but is deadly inside. He's shooting a career-best 52.8 percent on 2-pointers this season, and his 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks make him a serviceable defender (although the Bulls could certainly stretch their offense to make him work more).

3. Rajon Rondo

Rondo hasn't been great in his first season with the Pellies, but perhaps he's turning things around. Beginning with his absurd 25-assist game just after Christmas, Rondo is averaging 7.4 points, 8.2 assists and 1.0 steal per game. He's allowed Jrue Holiday to play more off the ball, and while his defense is nothing to write home about he's logging solid minutes for a Pelicans team woefully short in the backcourt.